Amendments Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.
Hallmarking (Amendment) Bill 2016: Report and Final Stages
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 4, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:
" 'multi-metal article' means an article comprised of 2 separate metals, one of which is precious metal or an alloy of precious metal, and the other of which is non-precious metal;
'non-precious metal' means any metal other than—
(a) gold, silver, palladium or platinum, or
(b) alloys of gold, silver, palladium or platinum;
'offshore hallmark' has the meaning assigned to it by section 2(1)(aa);".
Amendments Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, provide for the insertion of a new provision in the Hallmarking Act 1981 to allow the hallmarking of multi-metal articles. Ireland has been out of step with other countries whose legislation provides for the hallmarking of multi-metal articles. Making these amendments will enhance Ireland's attractiveness as a location for inward investment by high-end jewellery undertakings which need to be able legally to hallmark multi-metal articles as part of their business. The provisions propose to lay down in legislation the requirements for both precious and non-precious metal elements of any multi-metal articles to ensure consumers can clearly see what they are being sold.
I will not comment on specific amendments but will simply make a few comments on the conclusion of the Bill. Sinn Féin will be supporting all the Minister's amendments.
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 4, to delete line 4.
I move amendment No. 3:
In page 7, between lines 9 and 10, to insert the following:
“Amendment of Principal Act
9. The Principal Act is amended by the insertion of the following sections after section 6A (inserted by section 99 of the Act of 2007):
6B. (1) Subject to subsection (2), the following requirements shall apply to a multi-metal article:
(a) both the precious metal, or alloy of precious metal, and non-precious metal of the article shall be clearly visible;
(b) the precious metal, or alloy of precious metal, of the article shall be marked with an approved hallmark;
(c) the non-precious metal of the article shall be—
(i) clearly distinguishable from the precious metal, or alloy of precious metal, of the article by its colour,
(ii) neither coated nor treated to give the appearance of a precious metal or alloy of precious metal, and
(iii) marked with the word ‘METAL’.
(2) Paragraphs (a) and (c) of subsection (1) shall not apply to any non-precious metal of a multi-metal article where that non-precious metal performs a mechanical function for which the precious metal, or alloy of precious metal, of the multi-metal article is unsuitable either for reasons of strength or durability.
(3) The provisions of this Act, the enactments specified in subsection (2) of section 8, and any regulations made thereunder, shall, with any necessary modifications, apply to the precious metal, or alloy of precious metal, of a multi-metal article as if that precious metal or alloy of precious metal were an article of precious metal and, for that purpose, a reference to articles of precious metal shall include a reference to the precious metal, or alloy of precious metal, of a multimetal article.
Offence relating to supply of multi-metal articles
6C. (1) It shall be an offence for a trader to supply a multi-metal article that does not comply with the requirements specified in subsection (1) of section 6B.
(2) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on summary conviction—
(a) in the case of a first offence, to a class B fine or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to both, and
(b) in the case of any subsequent offence, to a class A fine or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both.
(3) Sections 78, 80 and 84 of the Act of 2007 shall apply to an offence under this section as they apply to an offence under that Act and, for that purpose, references in those sections to an offence under that Act shall be construed as including references to an offence under this section.
(4) Sections 10(1), 24, 35 and 36 of the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014 shall apply for the purposes of this section and section 6B, subject to the modification that references in those sections to the relevant statutory provisions shall be construed as a reference to this section and section 6B.
(5) In this section—
‘Act of 2007’ means the Consumer Protection Act 2007;
‘trader’ and ‘supply’ have the same meanings respectively as they have in section 2 of the Act of 2007.”.”.
I move amendment No. 4:
In page 7, to delete lines 29 to 32 and substitute the following:
“(a) by the substitution, in subsection (1), of “to the Assay Master or an authorised assay office” for “to the Assay Master”,”.
Section 9 of the Hallmarking Act 1981 provides for the manufacturer of a precious metal article to apply a distinctive mark to the article, known as a sponsor's mark, and to have the manufacturer's design approved by the Assay Master. As indicated on Committee Stage, provision has been made in the Bill to transfer approval of sponsors' marks from the Assay Master to the Company of Goldsmiths which had operational responsibility for the assay office, but amendment No. 4 deletes this provision. Having considered the matter further and to ensure that there are no possible governance issues, the assay office and the Assay Master should maintain their independence from the Company of Goldsmiths.
Amendments Nos. 5 to 7, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 5:
In page 9, to delete lines 21 and 22 and substitute the following:
“an article of precious metal where that hallmark, stamp or other mark is a forged hallmark and he or she knows or believes such hallmark, stamp or other mark to be a forged hallmark.”.
Amendments Nos. 5 to 7, inclusive, are consequential and technical amendments to the Bill. They provide for amendments to section 12 to update the new forgery offence provisions to take account of forgery by knowingly applying a forged hallmark to an article of precious metal and the offence of knowing that hallmark stamp or other mark be a forgery. Amendment No. 7 inserts new text into the Bill to take account of offences by a body corporate as there is no such standard provision in the Hallmarking Act 1981.
I move amendment No. 6:
In page 9, to delete lines 24 and 25 and substitute the following:
“that bears a hallmark, stamp or other mark where that hallmark, stamp or other mark is a forged hallmark and he or she knows or believes such hallmark, stamp or other mark to be a forged hallmark.”.
I move amendment No. 7:
In page 10, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:
“Offences by body corporate
13. The Principal Act is amended by the insertion of the following section after section 12A (inserted by section 12 of the Hallmarking (Amendment) Act 2018):
“12B.(1) Where an offence under this Act is committed by a body corporate and it is proved that the offence was committed with the consent or connivance, or was attributable to any wilful neglect, of a person who was a director, manager, secretary or other officer of the body corporate, or a person purporting to act in that capacity, that person, as well as the body corporate, shall be guilty of an offence and may be proceeded against and punished as if he or she were guilty of the first-mentioned offence.
(2) Where the affairs of a body corporate are managed by its members, subsection (1) applies in relation to the acts and defaults of a member in connection with his or her functions of management as if he or she were a director or manager of the body corporate.”.”.
I move amendment No. 8:
In page 10, line 22, to delete “Jobs” and substitute “Business”.
This is a technical amendment to reflect the change in title of the Minister since the Bill was originally published.
When is it proposed to take Fifth Stage?
Is that agreed? Agreed.
I thank the Minister for bringing forward the Bill. As has been stated, it is technical in nature, with the main aim of including palladium and mixed precious metals on the list of precious metals which may be hallmarked by the Irish Assay Office. On foot of the Bill being brought forward, I was kindly invited to and subsequently visited the assay office in October of last year to better inform myself about the process of hallmarking and the changes the Bill was seeking to bring about. I wish to thank John Harbourne and Robert White, who invited us to the office, showed us around and explained in great detail the impressive history and operations of the assay office, which dates back to 1637. I was very impressed by the set-up of the office in Dublin Castle and the expertise of its staff. Similar to most people, I had limited knowledge of hallmarking, but the visit made me acutely aware of its significance. The assay office is a very impressive and effective organisation staffed by people who have a deep desire to ensure customers are protected and Irish jewellery retains its extremely high reputation for quality. I was encouraged to see that it is exploring opportunities arising from Brexit and the potential benefits for Ireland and our hallmarking institutions. Hallmarking is a very niche process and I was delighted to have the opportunity to better understand its history, system and importance.
Members were probably contacted by jewellers' representatives groups on the Bill. Most were happy with the provisions of the Bill, but some wanted weight exemptions included. After carrying out research and consulting with the representative bodies, we concluded that no amendments for weight exemptions should be introduced in order to ensure the high quality of Irish products is maintained and to protect consumers. We were happy to support the Bill in its original format and will similarly support its amended form. I thank the Minister for bringing forward the Bill and thank the staff of the assay office for their important work in this area. The Irish Assay Office has been in operation for the past 381 years. I hope the changes contained in the Bill will help to protect the high quality of Irish jewellery for years to come.
I thank Deputies for their engagement on the Bill, which aims to enhance consumer protection and strengthen consumer confidence regarding the proper hallmarking of articles of jewellery made from precious metal. I too visited the assay office and I agree with Deputy Quinlivan on the commitment and dedication of its staff. The work that they do goes on out of the public view, but they do excellent work in protecting consumers. I look forward to the enactment of the Bill as soon as possible.
The Bill will now be sent to the Seanad.